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Friday, August 31, 2007

The Law Versus Social Pressure

I've been idly contemplating the competing pressures of doing what is right/healthy/lawful versus doing what peers and social pressure demands.

In Hawaii, word was that there was heavy enforcement for speeding. When there wasn't a massive traffic jam screwing things up, people really did adhere to the 50 or 55 mph speed limits on the freeway. Even taxi drivers. This totally amazed me. Meanwhile back in California, I'll routinely be cruising along at 70 mph and getting dirty looks from those around me who I'm holding up by only breaking the law by five miles an hour. So for me on the road here, there's a twin pressure, and it's a balancing act to drive at a speed that is fast enough to not annoy those around me, but slow enough not to get picked of by a cop for speeding. So, I hover between 65-75, forever balancing those pressures. But keeping that balance is a stressor and I really wouldn't mind if we all agreed to follow the law. I don't need to travel at 70, 80, or 90 miles an hour. It just doesn't get me there that much faster. And I really hate the righteousness of the drivers who want to go faster and who speed around, glare, cut me off, and proceed to go tailgate the person in front of me with whom they repeat the process in a few minutes after that person fails to go as fast as the other driver demands.

Similarly, there's an article today about politics getting in the way of encouraging breast-feeding in America. But while many grok that breast milk is better for a baby than formula, our society doesn't make it easy for mothers to breast feed. There aren't spaces provided to do so very often, and doing it "out in public" or "in plain view" is so scandalous that others frequently make commentary, throw people out of stores, or even try to press charges for indecent exposure. So no matter how hard you press for people to breast feed, if it's terribly inconvenient, if they feel that they'll run into problems in the form of social pressure, and when there's an alternative, people will choose the path of least resistance, unless they are strong enough in their beliefs about breast feeding and rebellious enough to take the heat.

And what about when the law itself doesn't support our ideals. We all know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables, but fruits and veg are comparatively expensive because the farm bill has subsidized the production of empty calories in the form of wheat, corn and rice. So it's cheaper to buy highly processed things like Oreos that have a long shelf life, and we all generally do what is cheapest and easiest unless there's serious pressure to do something else.

What I haven't come to is a conclusion on what to do about it, other than to continue to slog forward and to provide social counter-pressure where I can. Anyone have any practical suggestions?


  • Initially, my response is that if you yourself have clear reasons for doing something it is easier to resist/ignore social pressure to do something less healthy/safe or beneficial

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 2:27 PM  

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